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People v. Willoughby.

2023 CO 10. No. 22SA254. Criminal Law—Miranda—Custody.

March 6, 2023

Officers arrived at Willoughby’s apartment to investigate allegations of domestic violence. Willoughby refused to come outside or leave his apartment, and instead he spoke to the officers from his second-story balcony while the officers remained on the ground below. While still outside, an officer told Willoughby three times that he was under arrest. Willoughby did not yield to the officers’ authority. Willoughby later stated that he had exculpatory evidence inside his apartment, which he offered to show one of the officers. The officer responded, “I’m not gonna lie to you and tell you you’re not going to jail,” and “[i]f you’re voluntar[ily] willing to let us go in there and look, and it proves your side of the story, then it will probably change you going to jail, but I’m not going to tell you one way or another.” Willoughby then allowed the officer inside and made incriminating statements. Later, Willoughby moved to suppress the statements, arguing they were obtained in violation of his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The trial court agreed with Willoughby that he was in custody when he made the incriminating statements.

The Supreme Court held that Willoughby was not in custody for Miranda purposes. Applying the factors from People v. Matheny, 46 P.3d 453, 465–66 (Colo. 2002), the Court concluded that, under the totality of the circumstances, a reasonable person in Willoughby’s position would not believe their freedom of movement was restricted to the degree associated with a formal arrest. Thus, the trial court erred in suppressing Willoughby’s statements under Miranda. That portion of the trial court’s order was reversed and the case was remanded for further proceedings.

Official Colorado Supreme Court proceedings can be found at the Colorado Supreme Court website.

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